Lorraine Loots is a painter based in Cape Town, South Africa. Her ongoing series Painting for Ants, which is comprised of tiny paintings, has garnered worldwide attention.
What defines you?
Selective attention to detail. At times, my studio is so chaotic that I need to clear a 12 x 12 cm space on my desk amidst the pile of papers, paints, plants and figurines just to be able to work, but I’d spend an hour erasing and rewriting a letter that’s a fraction of a millimeter too low/high/big/small.
How long does it take to finish a print?
The original paintings take me between 6 to 8 hours to complete on average; the prints take much longer actually. The originals are scanned in, cleared of dust specks etc. on Photoshop, PDF's are sent to the printers, they have them printed in Cape Town. Then I edition, sign, date, stamp, write messages, package, and send them via registered mail.
How did you come up with the idea for this series?
Ironically, the idea came about after I had decided that I didn't want to pursue a career as an artist after all. I didn't want to stop painting though, so I constructed this borderline-OCD project where I had to spend an hour a day creating something. The only thing I could finish in that time frame was a miniature, and so 365 Paintings for Ants was born. 365 Postcards for Ants is the second phase of that project.
When did you come up with the idea for this series?
In late 2012, I was doing a Business Course for Artists at the UCT school of Business. After 3 months of learning about tax, negotiating, marketing and business plans I had decided that I did not want art to be my career after all. I also knew that I didn't want to stop producing art and besides, I still had to come up with a business plan to pitch as my final assignment for the course I was doing. And so, 365 Paintings for Ants was born. The plan was simply that I would set aside an hour a day outside of my "real job" to complete an artwork.
Why did you title the project 'paintings for ants'? What size are you pieces?
The pages I’m working on are about 10 x 10 cm, and the images themselves vary from 8mm to 30mm in diameter. When I just started doing miniatures, people would say: “Oh, that’s nice. But what would you do with something that small?” I just started saying they were made for ants.
Have you always painted on such a small scale?
No, but I've always loved detail. Painting smaller pictures just allows me to put in the amount of detail I want to (otherwise it would take me a lifetime). I also love the intimacy of it - the fact that you have to get so close to the image to really appreciate it.
What inspires your daily creations?
At first, I would paint whatever I felt like: everyday objects, or whatever I came across that day. But as people started booking dates, they got excited about the prospect of being able to make suggestions for what would be painted on their day, and I liked the idea of drawing inspiration from that. In 2014, I decided to structure it more carefully, limiting the suggestions to Cape Town related themes and accepting no less than 5 suggestions per date. This would ensure that I could still choose something that resonates with me, and at the same time, prevent the project becoming purely commission based. For 2015's project, I decided to pick four of my favourite themes and paint whatever I feel like on the day. I needed a bit more flexibility after 2 years of non-stop painting.